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Wales could be sitting on significant reserves of mineral wealth, says expert report

25 May 2023 5 minute read
Manganese mine on the the Llŷn Peninsula Phot by Chris Morriss is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Martin Shipton

Wales is likely to be sitting on reserves of critical minerals that could be crucial to the nation’s future prosperity, according to research undertaken by the British Geological Survey (BGS).

The publicly funded body, regarded as the UK’s premier provider of objective and authoritative geoscientific data, has produced a report identifying areas of the UK that are believed to contain significant deposits of critical raw materials (CRMs), and which could potentially be mined.

The report represents one of the first steps in the UK Government’s critical minerals strategy, which aims to make the UK more resilient to disruption in critical mineral supply chains by accelerating the growth of domestic capability.

CRMs are those minerals seen as economically important, like those needed to make the batteries and semiconductors that are vital for the clean energy transition, and that are at the greatest risk of supply chain disruption.

The UK has 18 metals and minerals on its CRM list, with another six materials classed as having elevated criticality. These are almost exclusively obtained from mining and refining operations in other countries, although tungsten has been mined in the UK in recent years.

Manganese

Dr Kathryn Goodenough, co-author of the report and BGS principal geologist, said: “Mining in the UK has a long history and many of the prospective areas have been mined before. For example, the Llŷn Peninsula of north Wales was mined for many years for manganese, which was originally important for steel making. In the future, the manganese deposits could be important for battery production.”

BGS used a mineral systems approach to its research, relying on the concept that minerals of a certain type are formed by a combination of particular geological processes. The team identified the geological processes necessary to form CRM deposits and mapped these criteria against the UK’s available datasets, which include maps of the geology, soil and sediment geochemistry, and mineral occurrences.

The report’s authors stress that identifying an area as prospective does not necessarily mean it will be targeted for exploration and mining.

Eimear Deady, another of the co-authors, said: “Our report identifies the parts of the UK where the geological criteria have been met and therefore have the potential for deposits to occur. There are no guarantees.

“The report focuses on the geological evidence and does not consider potential constraints on development, for example where there are areas of outstanding beauty, villages and towns, or other environmental considerations.

“Much more research is required and, if prospectors find evidence of commercially viable CRM deposits, they will have to go through the well-established planning process. Only one in a thousand potential mineral exploration projects ever becomes an operating mine. The areas we have identified, along with other parts of the UK, are underexplored and we need more systematic research to understand the potential availability of CRMs in the UK.”

Dr Goodenough said: “Mining in the UK stretches back to prehistoric times. Currently, gold, barite, fluorite, gypsum, potash and polyhalite are among the minerals being mined. Exploration for many raw materials is occurring across the whole of the UK.

By-products

Some CRMs, like lithium, tin and graphite, are typically the primary products of mines. Others are produced as co- or by-products. Where mining develops for other commodities, it is always important that miners also assess the potential for CRMs in their deposits.

“Other countries like Canada, the USA, Norway, Sweden and Finland are also mapping their own geological potential as they too understand the risk of continuing to rely entirely on global supply chains for minerals that are absolutely vital to our way of life.”

Jonathan Edwards, the MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, who has taken a particular interest in the work of the BGS, said: “The challenges of net zero and the transition to electric technology is leading to a global rush for the critical raw materials required.

“It is understandable therefore that the UK Government has set up a Critical Minerals Intelligence Centre tasked with ensuring that the UK has sufficient supplies of essential materials required. As a part of this work, the British Geological Survey has been commissioned to audit deposits within the British state available for exploitation.

“The UK has 18 metals and minerals on its Critical Minerals List. The work of the BGS indicates that eight geographical areas in the UK have been identified as holding deposits identified as critical by UK Ministers.

“A substantial part of Wales including the northwest, mid Wales to the north of Carmarthenshire, southeast Wales and the west of Pembrokeshire have been identified as potential areas for exploitation.

“While there is no immediate prospect or guarantee of exploitation, considering the urgency of securing these metals and materials matters could move very quickly.

“There is nothing new in Wales being an area rich in the resources required to power the UK economy. With a significant part of our country designated by the UK Government and its agencies as an area of interest when it comes to the critical raw minerals of the future, we cannot let the mistakes of the past be repeated. Any exploitation must benefit Welsh communities and Welsh citizens directly.”


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Neil McEvoy
Neil McEvoy
11 months ago

Wales has hundreds of billions £s of gas reserves, which can be obtained without fracking. Propel supports exploiting this resource.

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
11 months ago
Reply to  Neil McEvoy

Leave it in the ground ffs!!!

James
James
11 months ago
Reply to  Neil McEvoy

You absolute buffoon. Propel is as big of a joke as you are.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
11 months ago

When they speak of this find being “crucial to the Nation’s prosperity” the British Geological Survey alas doesn’t mean the Nation of Wales. We in Wales have been here all too often before – and unless we in Wales can secure control of our own country another round of the brutal exploitation of Wales’ natural resources by the british state beckons

Riki
Riki
11 months ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

Yep, they are finally admitting such because they know all too well that the people of Wales won’t stand up for themselves. And I’m sure it’s just a Coincidence that we no longer have safeguards in place.

Keith Richard Kirwan
Keith Richard Kirwan
11 months ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

You mean like when Swansea didn’t want to develop as a port so Lord Bute with his own Scottish/English money developed the village of Cardiff into a port to ship out coal.
What a cheek

Riki
Riki
11 months ago

Cardiff has existed since the first century AD. The cities and towns in Wales took so long to develop because it’s people were always under constant threat from the English. Are we just going to ignore this fact?

Frank
Frank
11 months ago

Hands off!!! It belongs to the Cymry!! Let’s make sure of it by going for independence but with leaders that are genuinely wanting the best for Cymru and not themselves.

Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
11 months ago

“We couldn’t pay for independence…we rely on The Union for tax revenue and funding….”

We can now all enjoy watching Welsh Labour standing back and doing precisely nothing whilst Westminster and its Mafioso flog all of this off to foreign corporations/their friends at a bargain basement price under the guise of “a greener future” and “national security”.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
11 months ago

This follows an interesting article in the current edition of The Economist which takes things must further. There are a number of rare minerals, vital in driving green energy, especially vehicles. The Economist article identifies areas with the UK that are likely to be exploitable. With the exception of an area in north west England, ALL are in Wales, Scotland, Cornwall and the north of Ireland. Within Wales, the potential sources are in pockets in Pembrokeshire, south Glamorgan and a vast swathe of mid Wales.This now raises two fundamental issues. The first is obvious – any mining of these minerals… Read more »

Christopher David
Christopher David
11 months ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

Unless you can can guarantee little environmental damage and what ever the damage is the green benefits outweigh it then think again. It’s short term anyway and Wales is unlikely to form a government that could develop a post ‘mining’ economy.

Riki
Riki
11 months ago

This has been known for years! Wales and Scotland are needed for their Gold and Oil. The Jewel in Englands crown was never India. it’s always been Wales, for multiple reasons. 1. The Gold, 2. British (Brythonic) identity that can only be used while Wales is a part of the UK

Mawkernewek
11 months ago

Are we going to have to have our landscape dug up into open cast mines because Liz Truss’s irresponsible remarks ignite a trade war with China? then the government decides so called national security and resource sovereignty overrides any environmental restrictions?

Dai Rob
Dai Rob
11 months ago

THIS. AINT. GONNA. END. WELL. :/

George Bodley
George Bodley
11 months ago

Here we go again ,Rape of the fair country part two,Not satisfied with stealing our coal,Water, and Gold ,our resources will be stolen again by outsiders .when will the welsh learn wales is not for sale.

Christopher David
Christopher David
11 months ago

And what environmental damage will extracting these CRM’s cause?

Riki
Riki
11 months ago

Should We all go back to living in caves because we all farting too much?! Would that solve the problem with our environment? Mate there comes a time when you just can’t help but smile. This comment has made me do this.

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
11 months ago

The last paragraph is the crucial one in this article. And there must be strict environmental safeguards. These guarantees must be in place before the JCBs are allowed in, which means that any project must be under the auspices of the Senedd and the Welsh Government of the day.

Some1
Some1
11 months ago

This debate should focus on the mining and transportation techniques, and the revenue raised by local and national government. If the extraction licence mandates a 20% levy (with a 50/50 split between local and national government) on the market value of everything extracted, and the cleanest least intrusive extraction techniques are used, and funds are held in escrow to pay for reinstatement and there’s agreement to use rail freight over lorries rumbling though villages, then it should be seriously considered.

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